SOMERSET, NJ — On March 18, 2016, the Sixth Annual Educators’ Appreciation Day program was held at the Franklin Township Community Senior Center. Co-organized by Peace Islands Institute and the Turkish Cultural Center of New Jersey, the event recognized local educators for their exemplary leadership, their learner-centered pedagogy, and their consistent respect for diversity and multiculturalism among their students.
Approximately 100 teachers, administrators, and community members attended the celebration. More than ten educational institutions were represented, ranging from Happy Tots Home Daycare to Randolphville Elementary School to the Literacy Volunteers of Somerset County.
Jacqueline Flamm, director of Spotlight Learning, said she and her husband had been looking forward to attending the event. “In addition to enjoying the wonderful presentations on aspects of Turkish culture, fun quizzes, and delicious food, we love spending time with our former ESL [English as a Second Language] students who have become our friends,” Flamm said. “We are especially grateful for the Turkish community’s appreciation and recognition of teachers.”
One of the highlights of the program was a performance given by the Girls’ Folklore Dance Group from Thomas Edison Energysmart Charter School. Trained by Serap Coskun, the girls enthusiastically performed a traditional Turkish dance as the audience clapped along. The performance served as a creative way for the girls to thank their teachers, and it provided their teachers with greater insight into the girls’ lives outside the classroom.
The importance of cross-cultural understanding was underscored by Dr. Sule Tabanli, a math teacher at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School. Tabanli explained, “[The event] was a great opportunity for me to share my culture and traditions with my coworkers and also my son’s teacher.” She added, “It feels wonderful to be appreciated as an educator!”
To conclude the program, Anjali Malik, a special education teacher and coordinator at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, sang a song in Hindi, explaining the lyrics as she did so. It was a beautiful rendition of “Ajeeb Daastaan Hai Ye” (“Indeed This is a Strange Story”), a love song popularized by the well-known Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar.
Alongside dancing and singing, the evening also included a selection of Mediterranean foods, a prize giveaway based on questions related to New Jersey’s history and culture, and ample opportunity for networking and future collaborations.
All photos were taken by Handan Aldemir.